Gathering Courage, Not Fear
Inside The Head of a Very Stiff Body-Minded Person
"Alright, here it goes. After years of unconscious preparation I'm ready to throw the dice." -First time short story writer based on real events
Gathering Courage, Not Fear
It was five til midnight on the first day of summer in 2022 when the Midnight Collective gathered for the first time in 25 years around their childhood storytelling tree. A group that used to meet every summer had almost disbanded entirely after high school. Dani, the youngest of the group of young aspiring storytellers, felt a constant flow of chills over her even though it was a warm night in her hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona. She took three layers of warm clothing that night but the anxiety and nerves ran rampant as she prepared her first story for the group.
What used to be nights peeking her child's eyes through gaps in the trees praying that one day she’d get to participate in the collective around the story tree… If only she weren’t so awkward or had the right things to say at the right time in social groups. But tonight was the night she’d been dreaming about, her initiation!
She came just as she'd always done. Not having the time to put makeup on for the occasion didn't phase her.
What used to be fire lanterns next to each participant were now foldable solar powered lanterns. But one thing remained constant. The wind picked up at precisely 12:00 AM signifying it was time to throw the seeds into the air to be carried off and seeded around the developing city. This marked the beginning of the night's story…
Dani began by stretching her arms to the sides with the fingertips pointing up to broaden and clear her throat and chest similar to how she remembered being instructed in both yoga and a voice and diction class in college. Then prayed silently that the words came out right and clear as all the now grown up faces she used to study from afar looked her way.
"There is no courage without vulnerability" - Brene Brown
When was the last time you felt courageous?
It may not look like it but every time I get on this mat I feel a little more courageous. Even when it looks like nothing is happening from the outside. Inside though, is a fight longer than all of the Lord of the Rings movies combined. Battle's between "go with the flow" and "fitting in" and not losing one's humanity to all of that. In short it's a tremendous effort to become aware of... Then learning to reverse inefficient habits that have unconsciously creeped in over the years primarily training at desks and on computers in schools and everyone's favorite, the office.
The more I practice here the more I consider how little any of us have really learned about maintaining health, using the innate intelligence of the mind and body. Something I believe most of us can learn to control again (at least I dearly hope so - mostly talking to myself right now).
For instance when I learned to spread and press the whole hand down I started to feel muscles turning on in my arms, shoulders, and back that I hadn't felt active for years! When that happened the dull, heavy feeling that surrounded my lower and upper body before started to dissipate. Suddenly it became lighter, functioning efficiently by God's design again.
At least until I dropped out of the pose because the question of, 'how long would it take to maintain this healthy alignment and the activations to keep it?' You know, like when we were kids. We hardly had to think about it, nonetheless gauging the effort to put in each time and when to step away and rest... This is one of the most difficult challenges of my life so far.
"What kind of story is this," Alex interjected from the other side of the circle. Dani gazed around noticing the silent upright shift of the demeanor around the circle until she got to Alex who looked confused, agitated, and maybe a little bored contrast to everyone else. "This is my small story about when I feel courageous everyday," Dani answered boldly. "So listen up and hold critiques until the end, please."
It's like dealing with something that seems like you should be able to manage it everyday but find out that there's only so much you can do each day - or it feels like it...
I find myself going back and forth in reality or in a daydream at the office between the mat to a pull up bar, pull-down machine, or handrails on a stairway to teach myself again how the mind and body is supposed to work together anywhere. These are a few of the prayers that with every quality repetition to the best of my ability strength is coming to the nerves, muscles, and bones that used to lie pretty dormant while I engaged in the digital screen-universe.
Sort of like an endless pursuit that you must participate in if you don't want to backslide into a noodle body.
I've heard people tell me it's too slow of a practice for them, but is it or is that impatience bleeding through? Have we become so set on moving faster but not necessarily in conjunction with God's designed efficiency of using the mind and body well in our work? I'm talking about ways that don't lead to premature stiffness, aches, and pains...
Beyond physical or mental strength, each repetition is like becoming a little more patient and compassionate towards myself and others.
I believe these kinds of connections and activations that I strive to rebuild here... They aren't just necessary to move and bend efficiently again but help me to show up to any life situation with a clear mind and body. In other words without the distracted monkey mind that vies for our attention like someone continuously pulling the rug swiftly from underneath your feet, thinking it's cute every time. After all, I imagine a soldier doesn't just show up on a battlefield without first clearing their mind and body of mindless chatter. That sounds almost like a suicide mission.
But do we as civilians do something similar without realizing it?
Okay maybe that's a bit too dramatic but it's like what I'm trying to say. The kind of connections and activations that more or less provide each of us an opportunity to move free from pain and disease don't all happen at once, especially if you've gone most your life in ignorance. This is perhaps one of the most frustrating parts for a stiff-body-minded person like myself. Questions start circulating through my mind like...
"Do I do more dynamic movements through the range of motion I have ownership of right now and pray that this will help me break free from the constant feeling of being tightly wrapped with plastic cling wrap?"
or, "should I continue to hold the pose as long as I can until the muscular activations start to fail in which case it's time to rest and try again after?"
Now the wind began to pick up, stronger than the gust that spread the seeds when Dani began her story. Chloe responded before she could speak again...
"Time's up! This is mother nature's way of saying that. Thank you, Dani. That was definitely one of the most unique stories we've heard to date. I could indeed see myself working on the mat along side you or even, a small gym space based on what I need right in my office!"
For the first time around the storyteller's tree Dani noticed a wave of calm and peace removing the chills she'd felt before. "Thank you all!! Now you can begin to understand the challenges and how I work to overcome them to show up as the best version of myself everyday (I'm not sure if I'll ever reach it though). I hope you started to see that it's not just about making shapes on a gym mat."
Finally, Alex motioned the others into a huddle around him with Dani looking on from the other side of the circle where she awaited the group consensus about whether or not she earned her place in the collective.
After a long two minutes, Chloe looks at Dani and calls her to the group. Dani asks, "so... Am I in?" Chloe turns the smirk on her face into a wider grin as she answers, "well, yes and no... You've passed the first test - we all loved your unique telling of the inner challenges you face everyday and... We want to hear the next phase of it - next week!" Dani's mouth drops as she opens her arms wide to accept the invite to the next phase. She knew they wouldn't just hand her a place in the group for nothing and she looks forward to honing this storytelling craft.
Fun Facts About The Author
When Danielle is not journaling she is passionate about family and friend time, traditional photography, drawing, and last but not least - practicing on the mat and in the gym. This is Danielle's most honest published writing to date. She hopes to inspire herself and others with autism, developmental delays, or regular people with no special needs to wake up from the slumber that is causing a lot of premature wear, tear, and aging.
If you want to read the continuation of this series please subscribe to me here on Vocal and follow me on social media to share your experiences on the mat, in the gym. Because this isn't just a one way street where I talk about my experiences overcoming this big hairy challenge.
About the Creator
Danielle Deutsch believes all of us have the greatest super power ever - THE ABILITY TO CHOOSE! Some of us learn from our mistakes faster than others. Find a slower learner and give them a lift today! :-)
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